4/11/1987: Air 2000 Takes Flight

Today, in 1987, British charter carrier Air 2000 commenced operations.



April 11, 2024

DALLAS – Today, in 1987, British charter carrier Air 2000 (DP) commenced operations. The inaugural flight departed Manchester (MAN) bound for Malaga (AGP).

The UK's third-biggest tour operator, Owners Abroad, had set up the airline after seeing the success its rivals Thomson and International Leisure Groups (ILG) were having with their own in-house airlines.

In a surprise move, Air 2000 chose the Airbus A320 over the Boeing 737 to supplement its 757s. Photo: Pedro Aragão, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Regional Focus

The tour operator teamed up with Errol Cossey, the former CEO of Air Europe. Unlike its competitors, DP would focus on its regions, and its first base was Manchester (MAN), followed by London Gatwick (LGW). From the outset, 

Air 2000 would focus on high-quality onboard service, with hot meals served on every flight. It also became one of the first charter carriers to launch a "premium" cabin with its 'Super Lion Class.' 

A year after its inaugural flight, the carrier opened its third base in Glasgow. The fleet had also grown to four Boeing 757-200s. The aircraft were ETOPS equipped, which allowed transatlantic flights to commence in 1989.

Air 2000 also posted a profit of £3 million. By 1993, it had grown to be the third-largest charter airline in the UK.

In 1998, the airline introduced its new 'Tapestry' livery, designed by renowned brand designers Landor Associates. Photo: Kambui, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

New Bases

The carrier expanded its fleet during the 1990s, adding Boeing 757s from defunct carriers Hispania (XF) and Air Europe (AE). This allowed new bases to be opened in Birmingham (BHX), Newcastle (NCL), and its first outside the UK, Dublin (DUB), in 1996. To supplement the 757s, DP ordered four Airbus A320s, with the first arriving on lease in March 1992.

Scheduled flights began in 1993 from LGW to Larnaca (LCA) and Paphos (PFO). The flights were successful and later launched from NCL, BHX, GLA, and MAN.

In October 2003, the airline's new owners announced that Air 2000 would be rebranded as First Choice Airways as part of a £1 million branding change.

Featured image: G-OOOA was the carrier's first Boeing 757 delivered directly from Seattle. Photo: Ken Fielding CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons